Uniq may sell its pig processing division

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The Independent Online

Uniq, the foods group formerly known as Unigate, fuelled speculation yesterday that it may sell its pig processing unit, Malton, when it said the division had dragged down the group's profits for the first half of the year.

Uniq, the foods group formerly known as Unigate, fuelled speculation yesterday that it may sell its pig processing unit, Malton, when it said the division had dragged down the group's profits for the first half of the year.

A shortage of British pigs, plus an outbreak of swine fever, made pig prices 21 per cent higher in the six months to 30 September, compared with the same period last year. Despite closing a factory in Middlesborough, Malton posted an operating loss before goodwill and exceptionals of £5.4m, against a £1.3m profit previously. Uniq said the result was "very disappointing". It described prices of UK pig meat, which is currently 25 per cent higher than on the Continent, as "unsustainable".

Sir Ross Buckland, chief executive, said it was too early to talk about selling off the business, but he added: "We are looking at consolidation in the pig meat sector but it is unclear what form that would take."

Pre-tax profit, before exceptional items and goodwill, was £28.7m, down from £47.2m last year. The company had a one-off charge of £11.8m to write off goodwill relating to Malton Foods. It also took a £10.3m hit for costs, following the £250m sale of the dairy and cheese business to Dairy Crest in July. The bottom-line figure showed Uniq had dipped into the red, reporting a £2.5m loss. Uniq shares fell 0.5p to 211p.

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